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Circular Placement of Nucleus Colonies Formed from One Parent Colony

By V A Cook.


When nucleus colonies are formed in an apiary the bees have been prevented from returning to the hives from which they have been taken. For this reason, it is often recommended either that newly formed nucleus should be moved to another apiary, or that the hive entrances should be temporarily plugged with grass.

Moving colonies to another apiary is costly and laborious. It is unnatural for colonies to be confined in their hives, and confinement can lead to colony disorganisation and can aggravate diseases, for example nosema disease.

For many years I have successfully used a method of making nucleus colonies from large colonies, keeping them in the apiary where they are made without confining them.   The nucleus hives are arranged around the site of the parent colony (which has been disbanded), in a circle with their entrances facing inwards. This article describes a trial of the method conducted in Luddington in 1982. The system has also been conducted successfully on various occasions by ordinary beekeepers.


Although the article describes Yellow Italian Type bee and Smith Hives, the method has been carried out using the Dark European type honeybee and using National Hives.

The double brood strong colony is best used with 22 frames. And using either three, four or five frame nucleus you can calculate how many colonies you can make.

The colony should be de-queened and immediately divided into the number of nucleus boxes decided upon.  The sub colonies should be made practically equal with brood and stores in each box. Spare empty combs can be used to make up the number of nucleus if desired, but only one per nucleus.

All the hive equipment from the parent colony needs to be removed and the nucleus colonies should now be in a circle with the entrances facing inwards, around what used to be the site of the parent colony, any loose or flying bees should be tipped into the centre of the circle. The inside diameter of the circle is about 2 meters, as it is not advisable to allow panic cells, and best results are produced by the introduction of a ripe queen cell into each nucleus colony immediately.  Place the cell in the centre of a brood comb in the centre of the new colony  It is also advisable to conduct the work on a sunny day with bees flying and bringing in nectar and pollen.


If the flying bees are observed, they quickly settle down to carrying out their duties while any young bees distribute themselves among the new colonies.

You can leave the new colonies until the next day when if they are not equal, moves can be arranged. Make sure however that once the ripe cells emerge, no further movements are made.  You will see that the new queens will get mated quickly and it is noted that a high percentage of laying queens are produced by this method and the colonies remain about the same size.  This is a good method to carry out as a display at association meetings particularly if new members would like one of the resultant colonies.

1. Cook V (1962)Drifting of Bees-effect of hives placed in circle NZ J Agric
2. (1980) A honey production colony for producing queen cells. Bri Bee J
3. Hooper T (1979)Guide to bees and honey.
4. Johannsson T.S.K.  Johannsson M.P. (1978) Some important operations in bee management, London Bee Research Association.
5. Ministry of Agriculture fisheries and Food (1977) Beekeeping making increase.
6.  (1982) Nosema and amoeba. Advis leaflet 473.

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